Louis C.K. Comedy Bit Critical of Parkland Survivors and Activists Draws Backlash

By Mark Walsh — January 02, 2019 3 min read
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Comedian Louis C.K. is stirring controversy for an apparently recent standup routine that mocks survivors of last year’s deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and the student activism that followed.

“They testify in front of Congress, these kids? ... What are you doing?” the comedian says during his unidentified appearance, based on audio posted on Twitter on Dec. 30 by comedy writer Jack Allison.

“You’re young, you should be crazy, you should be unhinged, not in a suit saying, ‘I’m here to tell you ...’ — F--- you,” C.K. said in the routine.

C.K., continuing in his trademark in-your-face style, says the students didn’t suddenly become interesting because they had survived a mass shooting.

“You’re not interesting ‘cause you went to a high school where kids got shot,” C.K. continues, as audience members laugh heartily. “Why does that mean I have to listen to you? How does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I got to listen to you talking?”

C.K. has been testing the waters for a public return for months after The New York Times in November 2017 published a story about five women, mostly aspiring comics, alleged that C.K. had either asked them to watch him masturbate or forced them to watch while he did so. C.K. acknowledged that the allegations were true, and while he face no legal consequences, his career immediately suffered as a film was shelved and TV networks dropped their affiliations with him.

Aalayah Eastmond, who was a junior at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last Feb. 14 when a gunman killed 17 students and adults, and who testified about the incident before Congress, criticized C.K. in a Dec. 31 tweet that referenced the comedian’s sex-abuse scandal.

“Hey Louis CK - since you like making fun of me and other Parkland survivors behind closed doors, I’m right here if you want to talk. Just try to keep it in your pants, ok?” wrote Eastmond, who is a senior at Stoneman Douglas high this year.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland incident, tweeted, “To anyone who knows Louis CK, please deliver this message for me. My daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting. My son ran from the bullets. My wife and I deal with loss everyday. Why don’t you come to my house and try out your new pathetic jokes?”

In the audio clip of C.K.'s set posted online, the comedian also mocks young people who use gender neutral pronouns such as “they/them.”

C.K., who years ago did routines criticizing the Common Core State Standards, appears to have received some support for his willingness to address controversial topics from a fellow comedian, the British comic Ricky Gervais.

“Please stop saying ‘You can’t joke about anything anymore.’ You can.” Gervais tweeted on Dec. 31.

“You can joke about whatever” you like, Gervais said, added in the obscenity-laden tweet. “And some people won’t like it and they will tell you they don’t like it. And then it’s up to you whether” to stand by the material, he said.

But on ABC’s talkfest “The View” on Wednesday, comedian and regular panel member Joy Behar, who often strongly defends edgy material by comics, said she was troubled by the C.K. clip.

“He’s out there ... punching down,” she said. “There are so many targets to punch up to. There’s Trump. ... There’s a million things to go after. Why would you pick kids who are suffering because of gun violence. Pick the NRA. ... Don’t go after the victim.”

“Someone as brilliant as Louis C.K. should know better,” Behar said.

Below is an ABC “Good Morning America” report from Wednesday morning.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.